Five Common Foot Problems

Fighting the Five Most Common Foot Woes

From eating better foods to getting an adequate amount of sleep and exercise, we live in a very health-conscious society. So why is it that many Americans routinely overlook one of the cornerstones of good health? While nearly 70 percent of Americans say they want to be healthier five years from now, just 51 percent recognize that foot health can be a key to achieving that goal, according to a survey from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Nearly 8 in 10 Adults Experience Foot Pain or Foot Problems“Nearly eight in 10 adults have experienced some type of foot ailment in their lives. Yet despite the pain, close to three in 10 do nothing about it, simply choosing to live with their pain,” says Hubert Lee, DPM, a podiatrist at CarePlus Foot and Ankle Specialists and APMA member. “Meanwhile, more than half of those surveyed said they had endured foot pain at some point in their lives but have not sought treatment from a podiatrist.”

So what are the five most common types of foot problems, and what causes them? Here are some tips from today’s podiatrists:

  • Nail problems are one of the most prevalent foot woes in both men and women. These problems can range from ingrown toenails to fungal infections. “Ingrown toenails—a condition in which the corners of sides of a nail dig painfully into the soft tissue of the nail grooves—is the most common form of nail problem,” Dr. Lee says. To avoid ingrown toenails, trim nails straight across and don’t dig into the corners. If a toenail becomes infected, see a podiatrist immediately for treatment. Those with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and other circulatory disorders should seek a podiatrist’s care on a regular basis to help prevent complications.
  • Sweaty feet and foot odor are two foot conditions that are often experienced together. While stinky feet are definitely embarrassing, feet that sweat excessively can lead to other foot problems, even creating an environment conducive to the development of athlete’s foot. Closed shoes make feet sweat, but in the winter you can’t avoid wearing them. Instead, practice good foot hygiene. Wash feet daily with soap and water, keep shoes and socks dry, and choose socks that wick away moisture. Change shoes and socks regularly and consider rubbing cornstarch or applying antiperspirant directly onto the soles of your feet.
  • Pain in the ball of the feet—Nearly one-third of adults have reported pain in the balls of their feet. Pain in this location can be caused by over-exertion, injury, or ill-fitting shoes. To avoid pain, always wear well-fitting, supportive, activity-appropriate shoes when walking, running, or engaging in other physical activity. If necessary, replace the insoles that came in your shoes with ones that provide additional cushioning.
  • Heel pain—This type of pain can have many sources, including weight gain, excessive foot flattening, muscle imbalance, injury, or even improper footwear. To kick heel pain to the curb, always be sure to warm up and stretch properly before and after exercise. If wearing high heels, opt for heels that are no more than two to three inches in height. For persistent pain, treatment can range from prescribed orthotic devices and medications to cortisone injections, physical therapy, and rarely, surgery.
  • Bunions—A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe. Treatments range from self-remedies such as using a bunion pad around the bony prominence, to ice packs to reduce the swelling, and to avoiding shoes that could irritate the bunion and even make the problem worse. For persistent pain, see a podiatrist for a full range of treatment options.

“While foot problems are common, that doesn’t mean people should be resigned to living with pain,” Dr. Lee says. “Consulting today’s podiatrist can help people feel better sooner, and get back to living healthier lives.”

Hubert Lee, DPM, FACFAOM is a podiatrist at CarePlus Foot and Ankle Specialists in Bellevue, Washington.  Call (425) 455-0936 or visit bellevuefootdoctor.com to make an appointment. Visit www.apma.org to learn more about foot health and care.

 

Nail Changes During Pregnancy

Your Feet and Legs: Nail Changes During Pregnancy

Nail Changes During PregnancyYour body undergoes remarkable changes during pregnancy.  These natural changes often affect your feet and legs as they are required to adapt to surging hormones in your body and to support increasing weight during pregnancy.  There are several commonly seen nail changes during pregnancy.  While most of these changes typically resolve after you have your baby, there are safe and effective treatments available during pregnancy to ease your symptoms.

Coarse or Brittle Nails

Your body may be deficient in nutrients as a result of the demands of your growing baby.  This may cause your nails to change in texture or hardness.

Maintain a well-balanced diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need.  Keep your nails trimmed short by cutting them straight across and slightly rounded at the tip.  Your toenails will typically return to a normal appearance around nine months after you give birth.

Curved or Ingrown Nails

These changes to your nails are often due to wearing shoes that are too small or constrictive.  As your feet swell during pregnancy, wearing tight shoes will increase the pressure upon your feet and can deform your nails.  When a nail becomes curved, it can grow into your skin causing a painful, ingrown nail.

Minimize excess pressure on your feet by elevating your legs during the day to reduce swelling and by wearing wider and more comfortable shoes.  See your doctor for treatment for a painful nail that has grown into your skin or if there are signs of infection such as redness or pus.

Faster Nail Growth

The hormone estrogen increases blood flow to your extremities which may cause your nails to grow faster.

Keep your nails short, clean, and dry to prevent bacteria and fungus from collecting underneath them.  Be sure to cut your nails straight across to prevent ingrown nails.

Fungal Nail Infections

If your nails are infected by fungus, avoid oral antifungal medications while you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.  However, topical antifungals are generally safer as there is minimal absorption of the medication into your bloodstream.

Nail Polish

For those women wishing to wear nail polish during pregnancy, look for a nontoxic nail polish free of formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP.  These chemicals have all been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity.  And remember to always paint your nails in a well-ventilated room.

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Treatments for Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenail With InfectionInitial treatments for ingrown toenails, such as soaking your foot in water with Epsom salt, can easily be performed at home.  These home treatments may provide temporary relief, but unfortunately, they do not address the actual problem of the nail growing into the skin of your toe.  This can lead to recurrent ingrown nails and possible infections.  The portion of the nail that is ingrown must be removed to resolve the condition properly.

There are different treatment options available depending on the severity and frequency of the condition.

If the nail is only mildly ingrown, the corner of the nail may be simply cut and removed to relieve the pressure and pain.

If the nail is significantly ingrown or if there is an infection, the entire affected border of the nail should be removed.  This is a quick procedure done in the office, and you will be able to walk or drive immediately after the procedure.  Antibiotics will be given only if necessary.

If this is a recurrent problem, a procedure called a matrixectomy may be done to permanently remove the affected border of the nail.

After an examination, your doctor will discuss which treatment for your ingrown toenail is best for you.

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